“Appleton’s Uncommon Council”

It was a warm July day 117 years ago this month, when an Appleton Evening Crescent reporter strolled through City Park accompanied by a staff photographer, Le Roy. 

2330-Appelton Park, Appelton, Wis

They were looking for the men who, for the past ten years [1895], had been spending lazy afternoons in the park. The men, ranging in age from 58 to 85 lived within walking distance and on “sunshiny afternoon[s]” “when the park trees made oasis of shade, and the lawn mower hummed busily away over in some distant corner of the green square,” they would gather. The men were known as Appleton’s “Uncommon Council.”

It started simply. The retired men would “take long rambling walks about the city, and one after the other formed the habit of stopping for a moment at the city park.” Peter Fassbender was one of these men who after his move to Appleton in 1901, found his way to the park, to the northwest corner where there were high-backed red benches, “more comfortable than the usual family of park bench.” “One can’t imagine how comfortable and homelike three plain park benches can be made to look until one has seen those three benches occupied by a group of white-bearded, snow-haired old men, leaning on the cane that rests between their knees, their hats in the hands, their pipe, perhaps, held comfortably in the hollow of the left palm, and their faces full of the look of comfort, and companionship, and now and then wreathed in a smile that is followed by a chuckle, as one of their numbers breaks into a witticism.” 

Park Ave. looking toward City Park, Appleton, Wis.

There was a green bandstand in the center of the park. In those days it contained four tables, shiny from years of coat sleeves and card paying, games such as seven-up or Schafskopf. The perfect spot to spend a rainy afternoon. 

When they were not playing cards, you might hear them speak of the past. Of their days serving our country during the Civil War, or as they swatted a mosquito, recalling the pests of times past…”’Why, back in Oconto county we used to wear gloves on our hands and veils on our faces when we ploughed…’”

The reporter states that “old age means loneliness, sometimes” as wives pass away, and children marry and move away. But these men found friendship, companionship, and a way to spend a hot summer afternoon in the cool and shady park.1

Peter Fassbender is standing, far left.


  1. “Appleton’s Uncommon Council.”’ Appleton Evening Crescent, 1 Jul 1905, Saturday, p. 1, col. 2; digital imges, ( : accessed 31 Aug 2018). ↩︎

A Farmhouse? Really?

Every so often I enter “White Clover Dairy, Hollandtown” into a search engine just to see what will pop up. This time I got a surprise. 

Dairy Foods Magazine’s James Carper wrote an article about Arla Foods which was published on March 8, 2017.1 I cannot comment on the accuracy of the article as it pertains to Arla’s cheese production, but I can, and will comment on his opening statement. 

About 1923. The photographer is standing on County Road D, looking west.

I have written before as to my feelings about how Arla has wiped the Fassbender family from the history of the property and the plant. And this article is no exception. 

Carper opens the article with this statement: “To see how White Clover Dairy grew up [GREW UP!!!?] to become Arla Foods, it helps to look at a series of aerial photos hung in the entrance hallway to this cheese plant in Hollandtown, Wis.” [HOW did Arla get these images? Minus the one were “the house is gone,” these images are in our families possession]. He continues: “In the first image there is a farmhouse near the original plant. Later images show how expansions to the plant crept closer and closer to the house. Eventually, the plant completely surrounds the farmhouse, and in the last image, the house is gone…”

View from Henry and Ida’s front porch, looking toward County Road D.

If Carper had chosen to enter “White Clover Dairy, Hollandtown” into a search engine, he would have quickly discovered that this “farmhouse” was the original owner and cheesemaker’s home. 

The house built in 1916 was not a farmhouse, never hosted thrashers, and the nearest cows belonged to the farm across the street from both the house and the factory. The closest that Ida Fassbender came to feeding farmhands, was when she would feed lunch to factory workers. But these men and women did not come in from the fields, but at noon walked next door for a home-cooked meal. 

Henry Fassbender purchased White Clover in 1905, and it is because of his leadership, his vision, and his passion, all of which he passed down to his children, that there was a factory in Hollandtown for Arla to purchase. I am proud of this legacy, and will continue to work to keep it alive.


  1. ↩︎

Auto Runs Into Swarm of Bees

On a warm Monday, July 14, 1924, shortly before noon, my great-grandfather, Postmaster Lewis H. Cook was “bowling along” Highway 10 near the town of Maine, heading towards Wausau, when he “ran into a swarm of bees which made a veritable cloud in the highway.”

Sorry to leave you at this exciting moment, but I have been stuck on this direct quote from the article: “he was returning to the city through the town of Maine. Near the Burg farm on state highway No. 10…” The Town (now Village) of Maine is north of Wausau, and state highway 10 is south of Wausau. I can find no Burg listed on the 1930 Plat Map for Maine. Where was Lewis when he ran into the bees? All I know is that he was on his way to Wausau.

1927 Official Highway Map of Wisconsin. : accessed 1 Jan 2022
ca. 1922. The Cook automobile in the driveway of 325 Sturgeon Eddy Road, Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin. His mother, Amanda Blood Cook, and his daughter Anola, plus an Unknown on the back steps.

The story was published in the Wausau Daily Record-Herald the same day, and reads: “In an instant the auto was full of bees, several dozens were smashed against the windshield which was covered with honey from the crushed bodies.” The article goes on to report that “two of the insects crawled over his neck to his hair, but he hung grimly to the wheel” hoping by continuing to move forward he would “lose the unwelcome visitors.”

“One adventuresome bee started an investigation about his ankle and this one used its stinger when an attempt was made to dislodge it.”

When he arrived at the post office, “more than forty bees were stuck in the ventilator and others were in almost all parts of the car, while the windshield was so mussed up that an immediate cleaning was necessary.”

ca 1922. Lewis H. Cook in his garden at 125 Sturgeon Eddy Road, Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin

When interviewed about the occurrence, Lewis calmly speculated as to what would have happened if he had “a car full of passengers instead of being alone.”1


  1. “Auto Runs into Swarm of Bees,” Wausau Daily Record-Herald, 14 July 1924, Monday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, ( : accessed 7 January 2022). ↩︎

Thanksgiving Memories

Many memories of Thanksgiving are tied to food. The big turkeys, the stuffing, the cranberries. 

Yesterday I made a batch of cranberry sauce for Thursday’s feast, and as I do every year as I watch the sauce come to a boil and the berries start to pop as they heat up, my thoughts wander back to another Thanksgiving, either 2000 or 2001. 

The computer was on in the library, connected to the internet, and email open. We designed the corner desk to be visible from the family room and kitchen with the intent that I could monitor the kid’s activity on the computer from the other rooms. The added benefit was that I could also monitor for incoming email – genealogy email. 

As it was the week of Thanksgiving I was starting the cranberries while the kids were doing homework and just hanging out in the family room. Just as the berries were coming to a boil, I heard the tell-tale signal that I had just received an email. Forgetting to set a timer, and after one last glance at the pot, I hurried into the library to check my email. And that is where I got into trouble.

I had heard from Germany!! I had recently connected with a gentleman in Bonn who was helping me with my Fassbender line. He was retrieving birth, death, baptism, and marriage information for me from Schloß Augustusburg in Brühl. The best part is that he was also helping me with translating the documents, plus providing invaluable insight into the Rhineland in the late 1700s to early 1800s. 

I got distracted. I was jolted out of my excitement by the kids yelling that the cranberries were spattering all over the stove. I had not yet burned them, just created a sticky mess on the cooktop. 

So each year as I watch the cranberries bubble in the pot, I am taken back to the early days of “online” genealogy when there were real people at the other end of the discovery of a document. I love the ease of Ancestry, but miss the connection with people all over the world. 

I make cranberry sauce the way my mother-in-law taught me many years ago. I shared this recipe last year, but it is worth sharing again. 

Marie’s Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries

  1. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups

To make strained cranberry sauce:

Follow directions in step 1 as written. After boiling the cranberries for 10 minutes, remove pan from heat and strain. Return sauce back to the pan, adding an additional cup of sugar. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. 

Pour sauce into a bowl. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Baby Farms

In recent months I have been working with a client’s DNA, and researching adoption practices in the first decade of the 1900s in Des Moines, Polk, Iowa, and Chicago, Cook, Illinois. This post is not a comprehensive study about the issue or any individual establishment.

A baby boy was born in the summer of 1906 and adopted shortly after his birth. I knew from documented sources for him, that he had spent time in the Iowa Children’s Home, so this is where I started. Moving to newspapers, I soon discovered that the Iowa Humane Society was investigating what was commonly known as baby farms. The newspaper was full of news. 

In the usual back and forth of newspaper research, I soon focused my attention on Mrs. S. M. Ingraham who ran a baby farm in Des Moines “where women could become mothers, and their shame be concealed.”1

Mrs. Ingraham had taken out an ad for her home in 1906. She stated that she operated a “retreat for unfortunate girls” where the “home like surroundings and the kindness and skill of its treatment of patients, has defied all competition for more than 14 years past.” She declared that both she and her assistant, Mrs. Mary Gilson, were trained nurses who “stand at the head of the profession in the city of Des Moines.”2 Mrs. Ingraham retired later this year, moving from the home and passing her work to Mary Gilson.

The Des Moines Register-Leader, 4 Feb 1906, p. 8, col. 6

The newspaper advertisement may have led young women to believe that they would be treated with kindness, but the Iowa Humane Society’s research discovered that these young mothers were “in a position to ‘ask no questions’ as to what becomes of the infants. In many cases, they are told the infants are dead and never see them after they are born.” At this point, there was no state supervision over baby farms and the subsequent “disposal” of the babies.3 The Iowa Humane Society was determined to change this and worked to create new regulations and laws to require these institutions to be licensed and to submit to regular inspections.

In November 1907 this story came to light. A woman, the mother of two boys, one four years old, the other a “little over a year” was in court because she had admitted to her husband that the babies were not her own. Mrs. Ingraham and Mrs. Gilson were both in court to testify on behalf of the younger child. They testified that the woman had “secured the baby from them when it was but a few days old.” The husband had “left the city for a short time and when he returned he found the little stranger awaiting him. Never until last week, when his wife confessed, did he know the baby was not his.” The woman also admitted that she had “worked the same scheme” on her first husband, from whom she was divorced. While her first husband was away “on a long business trip she secured an infant twenty-four hours old from the West baby farm and palmed it off to her husband as hers and his. Not only that, but she had a doctor present her husband with a bill for attendance during her sickness.”4

The judge ultimately ruled that the youngest child, whose “real mother is a farmer’s daughter living near Stuart, Ia.,” be turned over to the Iowa Children’s Home. The older boy was to be given into the custody of his paternal grandmother.

Mrs. West, from whose establishment the older boy was “secured,” was the topic of news throughout much of 1907 as she stood trial for the murder of a young baby boy. As a result of the ongoing trial, the inner workings of her “lying-in” hospital were revealed. In February 1907 The Evening Times-Republican from Marshalltown, Iowa, wrote: “Mrs. West now has at her home thirty-eight unfortunate girls, young mothers, for whose care she has charged the father in the case $200 spot cash, that being the minimum fee. [I can’t find the source, but I read that if the girl would not name the father, they waited until the time of birth to coerce her to name him.] The birth records show that there is an average of nearly one baby a day born in this institution. This means that over three hundred and fifty girls annually cover their shame in the place, and the officers say it will be shown that few of the babies live. There are ten such institutions in Des Moines.” The article goes on to state that “the monthly receipts from persons standing sponsor for unfortunate mothers is close to $30,000, and the annual receipts way beyond a quarter of a million.”5

Chicago homes were run differently than those in Des Moines. Here my attention was focused on Dr. William Farmer Briney, in whose home a baby girl was delivered, and then “adopted” out. 

Chicago Examiner, 6 Nov 1911, p. 14, col. 4

As early as 1903 Dr. Briney was advertising himself as the “great women’s specialist,” “reliable and skillful treatment of all diseases and complications peculiar to women.” “Positively the only physician who owns, manages, and operates personally a first-class, strictly private maternity home for ladies before and during confinement.”6 By 1911 he was operating the Anna Ross Hospital on Kedzie Avenue, advertising for young women to take a three months training in maternity nursing, and also a six months hospital training in obstetrical nursing.7 He was also advertising babies “For Adoption.”8

In 1913 the Curran Commission was investigating foundling asylums and infant “homes” in Chicago. After each session, the newspapers gave a full report of their findings providing much anecdotal information. On April 15, 1913, The Day Book had this to say about the Anna Ross Lying-in Sanitarium: “Mothers who go to the sanitarium are induced to sign contracts giving away their children before the children are born. Five unmarried women were found in the place. The rates charged by the sanitarium depend on how much money the mother has.”9

When the Curran Commission met the following week, the newspaper reported new findings: “Testimony of witnesses disclosed the fact that physicians received one-third of the fees charged patients for care and treatment in the institutions. This money is paid by the superintendents for recommending their establishments. It also was shown that babies are sold when only twelve hours old to total strangers, without any understanding whatsoever regarding legal adoption.” The first witness called that day was Dr. Briney who stated: “he had eight mothers in his institution, and that the standard charge for each of these cases was $60. The mothers, he said, had been sent to him by physicians. Asked what he paid the doctor, Dr. Briney replied that he gave them $20 for each of the cases sent to him. ‘This is pay for their trouble,’” “If I did not give them this fee they would not send the cases to me.” He went on to say that he placed advertisements in medical journals with distribution in Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. “It is a simple matter to get rid of the babies left at the institution by the young mothers,” “‘We have three times as many calls for babies as we have babies to give away.’ he said 95 per cent of the mothers were willing to leave their babies.” When he was asked, “What do you charge a person who desires to adopt a child?” He replied: “Absolutely nothing.” 

Dr. Charles S. Wood’s testimony gave a deeper look at the industry. He stated that since 1894 he had “disposed of 665 babies, none of which was legally adopted.” One child born at 4 a.m. was on its way to McGregor, Ia., before noon the same day.” He “insisted there was nothing inhuman about the incident. He said it was the best time for a newly born babe to travel, as it did not require nourishment for twenty-four hours. He keeps no records of adoptions or the fathers, and held ‘It is nobody’s business.’”

His contract was presented to the commission and reads:

“This statement is to certify or declare that I gave birth to a baby on …. and being unmarried and unable to properly support and care for it I have authorized and directed Dr. Charles S. Wood to procure a home for it as best he can, and I do release all right I have in such child, and declare I have abandoned it forever. I also authorize and direct Dr. Wood to consent for me to its adoption at any time or in any manner he may see fit. I promise and declare I will never claim that child or seek it at any time or in any manner, but do abandon it forever.”

Chicago Daily Tribune, 19 Apr 1913, p. 2, col. 2

He firmly believed that he was doing “a lot of good,” as he had “saved the lives of many girls who might have become suicides, and I have saved the lives of their babies.”10

One final story about deception and discovery. In September 1915 two couples were in court discussing the custody of a 21-month-old baby boy who had been born in Dr. Briney’s establishment. “Twenty-one months ago from somewhere in Minnesota there came to Chicago” a woman “whose husband had long wished for a baby and consequently assented gladly to his wife’s suggestion that at a critical time she should visit the maternity and infant hospital conducted by Dr. William F. Briney.” The article states that she “did not wish to rear a baby.” She told Dr. Briney that her husband had left her, and asked that he find a family to adopt him. “He [Dr. Briney] says she signed a release. He says he did not know she wrote to her husband and said the baby had died.”

At that time residing in Chicago was a husband wishing for a child, the wife, did not wish to bear a child. The wife approached a doctor expressing her wish to adopt one. The doctors stated they knew nothing of the situation other than “One simply knew that there was a 1 day old baby to spare. The other simply knew there was a 1 day old baby wanted. It was as simple as the transfer of a pound of sugar from a grocer who did not want it to a housewife who did.” 

Twenty-one months later the birth mother confessed. Her husband immediately left for Chicago, hiring an attorney upon his arrival. Dr. Briney’s records “told the entire story” and the two sides met in court. The baby was given to his birth father, who returned with him to Minnesota. The adoptive parents “left the courtroom. In the evening people at their residence said the owners had ‘gone out of town’ for an indefinite stay.”11


  1. “Grand Jury Investigates Baby Farms,” The Des Moines Register and LeaderI, 13 Dec 1906, Thursday Morning, p. 1, col. 7; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  2. “The Greenwood Park Home,” Personal, The Des Moines Register, 4 Feb 1906, Sunday Morning, p. 8, col. 6; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  3. “To Cure Horrors At Baby Farm,” The Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, 13 Nov 1906, Tuesday, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 29 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  4. “Admits Babies Are Not Her Own,” The Des Moines Register, 10 Nov 1907, Sunday Morning, p. 10, col. 7; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  5. “Stirred By Sense of Shame,” The Evening Times-Republican, Marshalltown, Iowa, 5 Feb 1907, Tuesday, p. 2, col. 7; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  6. “Medical and Hospitals” The Chicago Daily Tribune, 24 Sep 1903, Thursday, p. 12, col. 7; ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  7. “Trade Schools” Chicago Examiner, 30 Apr 1911, Sunday, p. 3, section V-II, col. 3; ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  8. “For Adoption” Chicago Examiner, 6 Nov 1911, Monday, p. 14, col. 4; ( : accessed 1 Aug 2022). ↩︎
  9. “Find Shameful Conditions in “Homes” For Foundlings” The Day Book, 15 Apr 1913, Tuesday, p. 6, col. 1; ( : accessed 31 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  10. “Hear How Babies Are Signed Away” The Chicago Daily Tribune, 19 Apr 1913, Saturday, p. 2, col. 2; ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎
  11. “Wives Engineer a One-Baby Deal; Husbands Fooled’ The Chicago Daily Tribune, 30 Sep 1915, Thursday, p. 1, section 2, col. 2; ( : accessed 28 Jul 2022). ↩︎

Salutatorian of a Class of Two

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 15 Jun 2015.

I don’t know when it started, but if Butch wanted to get Marie’s goat, he would mention that she was a “salutatorian of a class of two.” Granted, Hilbert High School in 1939 only had 13 seniors, but as Marie would say – “She still had to get the grades.” 

And get good grades she did. Back in the day before we were all concerned about privacy, Hilbert High School regularly submitted, to both the Appleton Post-Crescent and the Chilton Times, a listing of students who had made the “A” Honor Roll in a particular semester; Marie’s name was always included. Good grades and perfect attendance. 

In 1939 the Hilbert High School Commencement was held on May 25th, and Marie’s speech was about Education. I wish we had a copy of this speech. To read how 17-year-old Marie expressed herself would be pretty amazing. 

The salutatorian of the class of 1939 would soon be leaving the farm and moving to the big city of Milwaukee, where she would go to Beauty Culture School. While in Beauty Culture School she would study Cosmetology Law, and learn more about the brain and the nervous system than I will ever know. But that is for another post.

Tried and True Cookbook